Drones and number plate recognition technology should be used to tackle the “scourge” of illegal dumping, according to Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne.
Senator Byrne is today launching new legislation that would allow local authorities to use surveillance technologies in specific circumstances.
The Local Government (Surveillance Powers in Relation to Certain Offences) Bill 2022 would allow them to be used for all offences under the Waste Management Act or Litter Pollution Act.
It comes after Limerick City and County Council was fined more than €110,000 by the Data Protection Commission (DPC) for illegally using footage from more than 400 cameras across the city.
The DPC found that the council had no legal basis for installing many of the cameras and that others were being used for purposes they were not installed for.
It also found examples of the footage being handed to Gardaí without supervision or proper records being retained.
On Newstalk Breakfast, Senator Byrne said his legislation would only allow councils to use the technology to prevent illegal dumping.
“The scourge of illegal dumping is something that affects urban and rural communities,” he said.
“I know from surveying local authorities last year that dealing with littering and cleaning up illegal dumping costs them, in total nationally, between €90m and €100m per year.
“It is hazardous to livestock and to animals so there is a responsibility to look at using any methods at our disposal to tackle this and, you know some local authorities have tried to use CCTV and drones.
“They have fallen foul at times of the data protection commissioner because of GDPR rules but if we have legislation that underpins it, which makes very clear that the only reason the CCTV or drones or automated number plate recognition technology is used is for the purposes of catching illegal dumping, then that can be done.”
He said the legislation should go hand-in-hand with awareness campaigns and better facilities for disposing of household waste – but insisted surveillance technology is the best way to end dumping.
“We do need more awareness, this is not the only tool that should be used, but very clearly, and we know this, no matter how many awareness campaigns you have and no matter how many incentives you have, there are, unfortunately, still some people out there who just don’t care,” he said.
“People who have no sense of civic pride and responsibility and will engage in dumping and really, the only way to get them is to catch them on camera, to fine them and if they continue to offend, to imprison them.
“Illegal dumping, whether it is in a rural or an urban area, it has serious consequences. It is a scourge; we need to tackle it and that means that those that are involved do deserve to be prosecuted.”
The Irish Council of Civil Liberties (ICCL) has previously warned that the use of drones poses a significant danger to people’s privacy – noting that any legislation must ensure it can’t be used for anything else.
The ICCL noted that when it comes to surveillance technology there is significant potential for overuse and misuse by the State.
You can listen back to Senator Byrne here: